Penn State is set to head to Dallas to square off with Houston in the TicketCity Bowl Jan. 2. But who are the Cougars? Learn more about the Conference USA team here.

With an NCAA best average of 50.8 points per game, Houston is fueled by a high-octane offense. At the controls is senior Case Keenum. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Keenum boasts a 177.9 efficiency rating, hitting 71.7 percent of his passes. On the year he has passed for 5,099 yards and 45 touchdowns, five times more passing touchdowns than Penn State has delivered as a team.

Keenum has a variety of targets he looks to. Patrick Edwards (5-9, 175,RS-Sr) has 1,524 receiving yards and 18 touchdown while Justin Johnson (6-1, 223, RS-Sr) has 1,081 receiving yards and 11 scores. Keenum also has Tyron Carrier (5-8, 170, RS-Sr), who has 914 yards and five touchdowns through the air and running back Charles Sims (6-0, 205, RS-Soph) who has 545 receiving yards and four TD receptions.

To say Houston boasts a wide array of capable targets who can make plays would be an understatement.

In the backfield Houston has a pair of backs who supplement the passing game with Sims and Michael Hayes (5-9, 200, Sr). Keep in mind that while Sims and Hayes combine for 1,526 yards on the ground, Houston uses them just as often as receiving targets. The duo combine for 1,017 yards receiving and are the fourth- and fifth-leading receivers on the squad. The Cougar ground game averages about 155 yards per contest.

Houston has protected the ball well, giving up nine fumbles and six interceptions in 13 games. The offensive line has given up 16 sacks this season and Keenum has 25 net rushing yards on 50 rushing attempts.

Defensively the Cougars came up with 29 sacks, 18 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Their defense is led by senior linebacker Marcus McGraw, who has 131 tackles on the year (61 solo), 13.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

The Houston defense has surrendered 171.8 rushing yards per game, allowing 4.2 yards per carry and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Through the air it has given up 214.2 yards, with foes averaging 11.1 yards per reception and 18 touchdowns.

Of the FBS teams Houston played this year four of the 12 squads had winning records. The Cougars went 3-1 against those teams, beating Louisiana Tech (8-4) 35-34, SMU (7-5) 49-28 and Tulsa (8-4) 48-16. The opponent with the next best record was Marshall at 6-6 with the other seven posting losing records.

In terms of total defense, Penn State is the highest ranked team (No. 5 nationally) the Cougars will face this season, with the next highest coming in at No. 31. Here are how their FBS opponents break down in terms of total defensive ranking:

UCLA: No. 91
North Texas: No. 97
Louisiana Tech: No. 55
UTEP: No. 105
East Carolina: No. 56
Marshall: No. 86
Rice: No. 111
UAB: No. 115
Tulane: No. 82
SMU: No. 37
Tulsa: No. 90
Southern Miss: No. 31

Southern Miss not only boasted the highest ranked defense on Houston's schedule, but also handed the Cougars their only loss.

In terms of passing defense Southern Miss is ranked nationally at No. 69, while Penn State is No. 5. When it comes to stopping the ground attack Southern Miss is No. 20 while the Nittany Lions are No. 48.

It certainly should be an interesting matchup; one that could have reflections of the 1989 Holiday Bowl where BYU's Ty Detmer passed for 576 yards en route to a 50-39 loss to the Nittany Lions.


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